A fascinating and fun hobby
appealing to people of all walks of life and ages.
This page includes both Collecting Basics and How
much is stamp collection Worth?
Click on the links below.
Collecting in General
This is hard to write! Why
do people collect stamps, and why should you join
One of the great things about
stamp collecting is that it truly can be enjoyed
by many different people, with many different
interests, varying amounts of spare time, and
varying amounts of money, too! You don't
need to have anything special, and you don't need
to be anyone special, to be a stamp collector -
it really is a universal hobby.
Plus it is one of the few hobbies
out there that actually can involve its members
in both buying and selling - indeed it seems that
some people get more fun out of the trading than
they do out of the collecting side of things.
(Note that I say "fun" - many people
enjoy trading, but few people get very wealthy at
it!). And, for younger people, stamp
trading teaches them valuable lessons in terms of
the best use of their money, and how best to buy
and sell, and so on.
Collecting stamps is educational -
but not boring! Indeed, the educational
aspect of stamp collecting - the almost
imperceptible slow learning about foreign
countries and cultures as you collect their
stamps and notice their native plants, animals,
ethnic customs, festivals and holidays, famous
Many people find that their
interest in stamps evolves to an interest in the
countries that issued the stamps they collect,
and stamp collecting provides an excellent way to
encourage younger people to develop a broader
interest in and awareness of the wider world
Collecting stamps can be a family
pasttime, and even a family business. It
can be a great common interest shared by the
whole family, and can form a basis for mini-vacations
when the family travels to exhibit and trade at
stamp shows around the country (and even around
the world, too).
Collecting stamps can be as
affordable as you choose, or as expensive as you
wish! Whether your budget is $2 a week or $2000
a week, you'll find plenty of ways to spend it,
and will get plenty of pleasure in return.
Collecting stamps can tie in with
other (thematic) interests. If you are a
dog lover, maybe you will collect dog themed
stamps. If you really are a rocket
scientist, then maybe you'll collect space themed
stamps. If you like old cars, then guess
what - you'll find lots of old car stamps also to
collect. Adding a philatelic extension to
your other hobbies can be a fun way to enjoy your
other interests more fully, and at low cost - for
example, it is much cheaper to collect old cars
on stamps than as real cars!
Stamp collecting is an excellent
antidote to high-stress modern life. I was/am,
myself, your typical "Type A"
aggressive workaholic and spent way too much of
every day hard at work, and way too little time
relaxing and calming down from the tense demands
of high pressure work. Stamp collecting is
the complete opposite to such horrible things -
it is hard to get too stressed over a stamp, isn't
it! And the quiet slow careful sorting
through of stamps, identifying them, mounting
them in albums; all of this is a wonderful way of
relaxing and enjoying life at a much calmer pace.
Welcome to the hobby!
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The short answer - "It
The slightly longer answer - "Not very much"
Usually when people want to know
how much their stamp collection is worth, there
is an implied issue that they don't want to spend
a lot of time or trouble to find out the answer
themselves. The interesting reality is that
the more time you invest in valuing your stamps,
the higher the value you can establish for them.
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Value are you Looking For?
When you want to know how much
your stamps are "worth", that depends
on whether you want to know replacement cost -
how much it would cost you to replace the stamps
- that is, an insurance valuation, or the resale
value of the stamps - how much you could get if
you sold them. But, before we get to the
details of the valuing process, here first is a
quick rule of thumb approach to give you at least
a first indication of what you might have.
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Rule of Thumb
Some people seem to think that old
stamps become more valuable as they get older,
and I get lots of emails from excited people
talking about having just inherited an old
collection of stamps, perhaps from a grandparent.
Time for two reality checks :
Firstly, stamps don't
automatically become more valuable as they get
older. Valuable stamps - that is, stamps
that have always had a high value - may tend to
increase in value, but ordinary stamps of low to
no value will stay, sadly, at low value points,
probably for ever! So just because you have
a collection of old stamps does not mean your
collection is automatically valuable.
Secondly, and it is really a
repeat of the first rule, only collections of
stamps that have always been valuable will be
valuable today. In other words, if the
original collector was buying stamps, while
actively collecting, that were 'expensive' and 'valuable',
then you are in luck, but if that collector was
buying cheap inexpensive stamps, they are
probably still cheap and inexpensive today.
Now, for a 'trick' - you can often times tell
what type of stamps are in the collection just by
quickly looking at how the collection is
presented. The more care that that
collector put into displaying his (her)
collection, then the more likely that some of the
stamps are to be valuable. So if you have a
few ordinary commercial albums of stamps with
lots of gaps missing on the pages, you probably
don't have a valuable collection, but if you have
lovely albums with crafted pages and lots of
complete sets and duplicates with minor
variations, etc etc, then you're more likely to
have some good valuable stamps in among them.
Now, let's look in some more
detail at the valuation process, starting first
with the replacement or insurance value
determination for the collection.
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If you are not thinking of selling
the stamps, but just want to get a value for
insurance purposes, then that is fairly easy.
You can use any catalog as a basis to establish
the value of the stamps, simply by adding up the
catalog values of all the stamps you have.
After you have done that, you may possibly want
to adjust this final total figure downwards to
reflect the general marketplace reality that most
stamps can be conveniently purchased for less
than full catalog price. Generally if you
add up the catalog values and then reduce by
perhaps 20%, you'll probably have established a
fair replacement value figure. If you have
specially valuable stamps, you might want to list
these separately and calculate their values one
by one (some might even be worth more than
For insurance purposes (note I
have no specific experience here, so if this is
an important consideration for you I strongly
suggest you speak with your insurance broker) you
will probably find that your regular householder's
insurance policy has very limited coverage for
stamps, and you will need either to buy a special
extra policy for your stamps or get a specific
"rider" added to your main policy.
In my case, I found the insurance offered through
APS to be much better value than adding a rider
to my regular insurance policy.
If you have a fairly high value of
stamps, so as to make sure you have no insurance
problems if you have a claim, I'd recommend you
to videotape some of your collection - film
yourself slowly turning through the pages of your
albums, and you can speak out loud and point to
specific stamps as you do so - saying things like
"this is a rare stamp, Scott number 9999.
which is worth $55" and so on and so on.
That way you have at least generally established
the size and nature of your collection; of course,
if you have a very valuable collection with lots
of individual high value stamps, you probably
should get a photographic record of these
individual stamps. Whatever you do to
document your collection, be sure that you don't
store the documentation with the stamps!
That way, if your stamps are stolen/destroyed,
your documentation to support your insurance
claim will hopefully be safe somewhere else.
Don't forget to include the value
of your albums as well in any such calculation -
the cost of albums, pages, mounts, etc, can
sometimes end up being nearly as much as the low
value stamps within them!
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Value - Sold as a single lot
Maybe you inherited a collection
of stamps and have no interest in them and know
nothing about them and just want to sell them.
What is your collection worth in such a case?
The sad answer to that is "very
little, and a lot less than you would think".
Most stamps (certainly Russian stamps, and
probably true for most stamps of most countries)
are worth very little, whether they are new or
used. Indeed, you can buy very old mint,
unused, US postage stamps for less than their
face value! Used stamps are usually worth
even less than new ones (although nice clear
postmarks on very old stamps can sometimes add to
The value of stamps in a
collection when sold all at once can sometimes
also depend on how they are currently stored and
displayed. If they are all neatly in albums
with each stamp clearly given a catalog number,
then it is easy for someone who buys the
collection to know what they have and to either
resell it or mix it into their own collection.
If the stamps are just loose, and with some of
them still on pieces of envelopes, then they are
worth a very great deal less.
In general terms, a collection of
1000+ stamps can be expected to have a value
somewhere between 2c-10c a stamp when sold in
bulk. If the collection is predominantly
newer and used stamps (ie stamps from about 1960
onwards) then you can expect a value of probably
between 1c-4c (for a sale on eBay); if the stamps
are nicely displayed or organised, and if there
are more older ones, then you can expect a value
to be closer to 5c-10c each.
You probably can best sell such a
collection on eBay. Describe it in as much
detail as you can, show images of lots of the
pages of the stamps, and explain that you know
nothing about stamps and just inherited or
whatever the collection and that it hasn't been
"picked over" (ie an expert hasn't gone
through it and pulled out the occasional really
valuable stamp already). This method will
take very little of your time, and may bring a
good return. Good luck!
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Value - Partially Broken Down
If you have a bit more time, you
could sell the collection in a series of smaller
lots. For example, you could sell one part
as all Tsarist era Imperial Russia, another part
as, perhaps, pre-World War 2, another part as WW2-1960,
another part as 1960-1991 (the end of the Soviet
Union) and another part as newly independent
Russia and the other CIS countries. This
may increase the total value that you get from
selling the stamps, because it means that people
can bid specifically on the types of stamps they
most want, and also, by breaking down what might
be a very large collection into a series of
smaller lots, you make it more affordable for
more people to bid on various parts of it.
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Value - More Fully Broken Down
The ultimate in breaking down
stamps is to sell them set by set. This is
probably not sensible for low value sets - the
cost of an eBay listing fee, the postage costs,
and everything else, mean that for a set worth 50c
you would end up getting next to nothing net back
to you, and the buyer would end up potentially
paying 50c + 34c postage to you + 34c your
postage fee to send the stamps to him - he would
end up paying twice what they are worth.
But for higher value sets, this makes sense, and
also even some of the lower value sets can be
grouped into two sets per lot or whatever.
This can get you up to 25%-50% of
the catalog value of the stamps, depending on the
particular stamps, how well you display them, etc.
But the time it all takes is massive, and your
hourly rate actually will go down compated to the
earlier two sales strategies! If your time
has little value (eg if you are retired) then
this makes sense, but otherwise, if you are busy,
it probably does not.
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Costs of Valuing - Is it Worth It?
Which leads to the strange
circumstance - the stamps are probably worth less
than the cost of determining exactly what they
are worth! How much is your time worth per
hour? The chances are it will "cost"
you more hours of your time trying to maximise
the value and sales value of your stamps than you
"earn" in extra return from selling in
a more detailed manner.
Especially if you are unfamiliar
with the stamps to start with, and have to buy a
catalog and then carefully research each stamp,
you'll be spending huge amounts of time to make
trivially small amounts of money over and above
what you'd get if you simply sold the entire
collection in one single lot on eBay.
I hope this rather brutal
assessment is - while not what you hoped for - at
least of some assistance.
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